Monday, August 15, 2005

Second-rate regional redux

Those of you just joining our saga need to know that our gentle and delicate heroine has been forced, by the exigencies of the tenure line, to relocate from the unfortunately-acronymed Cool Urban Metropolis to the nearby Second-Rate Regional City down the road. She recently recounted for her gentle readers the tragic tale of an encounter with Bad Chai, which engendered paroxysms of despair over her ongoing exile from her former haunts. In fairness to SRRC, she now feels compelled to report in equal detail the unexpected pleasures of her new, albeit far less desireable, hometown.

This past weekend, our kindly heroine set off in search of her weekly ration of fresh produce with which to nourish her small daughter and ailing husband. Being a lady of gentle breeding and stalwart constitution, she selected for her conveyance the second-smallest of the family's extensive collection of transportation, a mode that ensured a comfortable ride for her beloved offspring, and guaranteed that she herself must use God's own conveyance, her dainty feet.

The morning was crisp and clear, with the promise of intense sunshine, as our heroine and her beloved daughter set out for market. They were delighted by the cool, shaded streets of well-kept abodes, the industrious activities of the ordinary folk who inhabit this quaint burg. The produce was uniformly delightful, the shopkeepers accomodating, and the prices reasonable. After procuring the necessary items, our two heroines set out for home, only to encounter, all unexpected, a charmingly humble village fete in honor of a departing and much-beloved shopkeeper. After feasting on fine cakes and ale supplied in honor of Mr. A— R—, and mingling for suitable time among the lesser residents, Heroine and Lovely Daughter continued their weary way home. As they strolled, surreptitiously feeding themselves upon the fresh-picked blackberries they had purchased, they encountered not one, not two, but three kindly townsfolk, who engaged them in pleasant conversation regarding the weather (unseasonably hot and sunny for our fair clime), the proper care of the garden (including a manly demonstration of a sophisticated tool for the extraction of undesireable species therefrom), and the importance of proper child rearing (namely, the necessity of preventing said children from ingesting inedible substances found along the road).

Gentle reader, your heroine was, quite simply, flabbergasted. Not once, in all of her daily errands in Cool Urban Met, had she encountered the sheerly audacious friendliness of this lesser folk. Despite the fine beverages, superior shopping, and generally excellent features of her former home, she felt the first stirrings of--could it be, affection?--for the determined little town of which she was now a member. She was pleasantly surprised to find among her fellow SRRC dwellers little obvious sense of their inferior township, their limited opportunities, their lack of urban chic. Instead, these folk seemed uniformly content with their dowdy lot in life, unaware of the exalted reputation of their sophisticated Urban neighbor, and free of the nagging certainty that they were Missing Something.

Thus, dear readers, your heroine begins this week with renewed enthusiasm for her quaint new home, and for the simple folk who dwell therein. No more shall she long in vain for extensive independently-owned bookstores, unsweetened chai brewed like tea should be, or shops wherein can be purchased items in quantities of less than 50. She embraces the sweet pleasures of SRRC.

And besides, Cool Urban Met is just up the road. And she still has oodles of credit at that fabulous used bookstore she once frequented.


At 12:08 PM , Blogger ABDmom said...

Well done, my gentle lady. Well done!

At 3:13 PM , Blogger bitchphd said...

You're nicer than I am.

But then we knew that already.

At 5:26 PM , Anonymous ehj2 said...

Dear Gentle Delicate Stalwart Kindly Heroine Doctor Dorcasina,

Oh God, thank you.

In my best recapitulation of the modern lingo, “I totally needed that.” Yeah. I did.


I slipped into the apartment after a fairly decent day at the office. Collected a glass of cold water from the fridge. Shed some clothes and hit the computer.

Listened to the chimes and the water fountain while the computer woke up. The screen came to life. I was online.

Checked in first with B.PhD. I don’t have a television, don’t listen to the radio, and I’ve already read a ton of serious raw news at the office. Now I want a human view, a whole view, a balanced view, a person-who-loves-the-world view. Reviewed a column I had responded to earlier in the day. Realized I’d fallen for the old “table with fingers” trick and wrote something in emendation. Checked out a new post on G.W. at Crawford blowing off a Mother and the world (again) and ached. Read the comments.

I always read all the comments. It’s not a conversation if you don’t listen to all the voices.

Get to MJ. Pause. What’s the point? Re-read MJ. Stand for a moment and look out the window at the Pentagon. This hurts. Okay, so the guy’s a troll. Ignore him.

No. I can’t. Okay, then just give him a few short paragraphs. What did the President say? Oh yeah. “I’ve got to move on with my life.” But this is my life. I’m connected to all of it. Literally and figuratively. I work at the edge of a nerve center that covers the world and translates everything from every language into mine and dumps it through a thousand filtered analytical systems through or around my office. I’m connected. I know.

And I’m responsible. I chose what’s happening and I am this guy. Me and 296 million other Americans chose this and we are this guy.

I punch out some paragraphs. I’ve got tears in my eyes. What happened to my America? Where did these people come from? Why are they so thoughtless, so angry, so destructive, so incredibly careless? Why are there so many of them?


Walking with my dad when I was in 4th grade on an amphibious carrier stationed at San Diego. My hand in his. The deck hot in the sun. The water beautiful. The Chief’s showing us around. These are the guys who run the Navy. They radiate calm, competence, love, joy, service, and everything I ever dreamed. Believe me, no matter what you do or where you go in life, your goal is to be a Chief. They live on the seas and keep everything safe. There’s a ride on an elevator bigger than my house and ice cream in a huge mess the size of my school. It’s a U.S. Navy ship and it’s the clay of my soul and it’s bedrock.

A teenager. Walking with my dad in the largest office building in history. The Pentagon. Sitting at his desk, afraid to touch the bank of phones. Photos of carriers and admirals and smiles and handshakes on the wall. Surrounded by men talking about the ships they’d been on. Spoke with a grizzled old guy who had been in the right place when the space program needed the Navy, when we pulled capsules and astronauts from the maw of the sea. A guy who had ridden on battleships and met astronauts.

And 9/11. Watching my dad’s office burn. Not just the building; the part with his office. Because men I now worked with from agencies I loved had been ignored, shunted aside, discarded. Because we’ve elected people to dismantle the government, to ignore programs and people they don’t care about, to swindle the world.

We lost two big buildings we favored. And then we tore down our own magical dream, squandered our children’s treasure, and buried our youth in sand on the other side of the world. I have a small bottle of that sand on my desk. It’s not worth one Marine’s life.

I wrote something to MJ. Maybe I even read it. Punched “ok” to submit.


Sorry Gentle Delicate Stalwart Kindly Heroine Doctor and Mother of Beautiful Daughter ...

Came here. Sipped my water. Paused to try some music. Read a few lines. Saw this was going to be good. Healing. Leaned back into my chair. Drank in a handful of words like living water. Breathed again. Drank again. Wept.


Thanks. For. Taking. Me. Back. Into. My. America.


It’s down the street from me ... no more than fifteen miles as the bike rides. Even the sun slows and pauses in the trees to leave beautiful mottled shadows dancing on the asphalt bike path that wends its way to West Virginia.

Close to the city I can’t cross a road without care. The cars eat bikes here. I work with these people. I know how busy they are. I know how numbing it can be. I know how far away your mind can be when the phone on your desk rang that day and a voice in cool measured tones said what it so often must say. Did you ever hate your phone?

But fifteen miles away it all slows incredibly. A special light comes out. And people in cars almost always stop for me and allow me (a skinny old man perched precariously on a wobbly mountain bike) the right of way. I always wave back. Thanks and God Bless.


Doctor, Daughter, Husband,

I wish you well in your new town. I wish you and your beloved daughter and your sick husband all the best of all the worlds under all the suns.

I see our two heroines shining up the place.

We needed that.


At 3:59 AM , Blogger louismiller75368542 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5:28 AM , Anonymous drh said...

As I've been trapped in the Really Small Town Wherein Lives My Family (RSTWLMF - hmm, that's a bit long!), after returning from Enormous and at times overwhelming foriegn metropolis I was almost knocked off my feet when a perfect stranger said hello to me as I walked through the neighborhood. It wasn't until then that I realized that I needed to shake off the wall that intense urban lifestyles (for all their benefits) often force us to erect. And so now I think I am ready to start writing me dissertation in small, but cool University town with a new appreciation of its offerings. :)

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